California Fool’s Gold — Exploring Laguna Beach

California Fool's Gold
Laguna Beach Postcard


Laguna Beach panorama

Laguna Beach is a quirky, affluent community in South Orange County. The city is the third oldest in Orange County, after San Juan Capistrano and Anaheim. It is widely known for its vibrant arts scene and environmental treasures.

It’s long seemed to me that dated and inaccurate stereotypes of Los Angeles often get transferred by Angelenos who should know better to Orange County, particularly South County. Perhaps as a whole they apply more accurately to the overall suburban, right wing-leaning and WASPy southern end of the county but Laguna Beach is a lesson in why we should only make broad generalizations with caution (or not at all). In Laguna Beach there are more registered Democrats there than Republicans. By the largest majority in the county, Laguna Beach residents voted for marriage equality. There seems to be a consensus that Laguna Beach, especially South Laguna Beach, is Orange County’s gay mecca. Its hilly neighborhoods look almost nothing like those in, say, Irvine. And even though I think that there’s a lot more culture in Orange County than haters give it credit for, even the most stubborn denier would have to except Laguna Beach.

I’ve visited Laguna Beach a few times in the past, mainly for the food and the beaches. Driving through Laguna Canyon has inspired dreams of living in the chaparral-covered hillside like some Mediterranean strain of Hobbit. On another note, the trip to Laguna Beach that led to this piece was more about going to the beach than blogging, so if it seems as though I didn’t spend as much time exploring on foot as I usually do, that’s because I didn’t. It was a friend’s birthday to go (frequent travelling companion Tim Shimbles) and I didn’t want to completely hijack his and his girlfriend’s day with my agenda.

Laguna Beach Trolley
Long Beach Transit Free Shuttle

Most people probably visit Laguna Beach as we did, with a car. For those without cars or unafraid to take public transportation, you can also easily get to Laguna Beach on OCTA‘s Lines 1 and 89. Within the city, the three Laguna Beach Transit lines will take you just about anywhere a visitor would want to go. Furthermore, from 28 June until 1 September there’s a free trolley which we hopped on.


As of 2010 Laguna Beach’s population was 22,723 people. The ethnic makeup of Laguna Beach was 91%white, 7% Latino, 4% Asian, and 1% black. It’s one of the wealthiest communities in the county. The oddly shaped city, roughly laid out along three spokes like a three-pronged Glaive, is bordered by Dana Point to the southeast, Aliso Viego and Laguna Niguel to the east, Laguna Woods to the northeast, a large wilderness area to the west and the even larger Pacific Ocean to the southwest.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of South Orange CountyPendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Laguna Beach
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography‘s maps of South Orange County and Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach includes the neighborhoods of Aliso Beach, Alta Vista, Arch Beach Heights, Blue Lagoon, Bluebird Canyon, California Cove, Canyon, Canyon Acres, Central Bluff, Civic Arts District, Diamond/Crestview, Crown Royal, Downtown, Emerald Bay, Emerald Terrace, Irvine Cove, Laguna Royale, Laguna Village, Laguna Village North, Lagunita, Lower Bluebird, Main Beach, Mystic Hills, North Laguna, Park Avenue Estates, Portafina, Rancho Laguna, Smithcliffs, South Laguna Bluffs, South Laguna Village, Temple Hills, Top of the World, Treasure Island, Upper Diamond, Upper Victoria Beach, and Victoria Beach.



The Old Spanish and Mexican Ranchos of Orange County California
The Old Spanish and Mexican Ranchos of Orange County California

The area around Laguna Beach is estimated to have been continuously inhabited for about 8,000 years. The Tongva arrived to the area as early as 5,000 years ago. To the south, across Aliso Creek, they were neighbored by the small Acagchemem nation, who like them spoke an Uto-Aztecan language. The Spanish arrived in 1769 and named the area La Cañada de Las Lagunas and later conquered the land — theLaguna Lakes are the county’s only natural ones. Mexico achieved independence from Spain in 1821 and thus future Orange County became Mexican. The lands that now include Laguna Beach were divided between Rancho San Joaquin, Rancho Niguel (named after the Native village, Niguili), and public lands.


Arch Beach Hotel - 1880
Arch Beach Hotel – 1880 (image credit: LightHeaded)

The US defeated Mexico in 1848 and took over California. The Timber-Culture Act of 1871 encouraged settlement of the west and the first American to arrive, Eugene Salter, claimed part of Aliso Canyon andSouth Laguna. More families followed. The first permanent homes were built by William and Nathaniel “Nate” Brooks in 1876. A small settlement called Arch Beach was established at the mouth of Bluebird Canyon. Arch Beach got its own post office in 1889. In 1886, Hubbard Goff opened the Arch Beach Hotel.

Laguna Beach c. 1890
Laguna Beach c. 1890 (image credit: Orange County Historical Society)

In 1887, a settlement called Lagona was established at the mouth of Laguna Canyon. A book, Laguna Beach of Early Days (1947), was written by one of the first inhabitants, Joseph Thurston. By 1888, Lagona had two schools. Lagona got its own post office in 1891. In 1889, Orange County seceded from Los Angeles County. In 1904 the residents of the community officially renamed their community Laguna Beach — the community of Three Arches was renamed South Laguna. In 1905, Laguna Cliffs to the north were subdivided by Howard Heiseler, L.C. McKnight, and the Thumb Brothers, and were the first to offer running water to every lot.


Hotel Laguna
Hotel Laguna

Although by 1900 there were only five families of permanent homesteaders farming Laguna Beach, by the1880s the California Riviera was already attracting many tourists. The Laguna Hotel was built, burned down and rebuilt in 1888. After both it and the Arch Beach Hotel were purchased by the same owner, they were moved to the present site of the Hotel Laguna and rechristened the New Hotel Laguna. After being condemned, it was demolished in 1928 and replaced by another structure in 1930. One of the most iconic structures in town was for decades topped by a beautiful neon sign. However, in 1996 the sign was removed.

Laguna Lumber
Laguna Lumber (image credit: Laguna Historical Society)

Laguna Beach was almost urbanized during the 1890s but a depression and change in the plans of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway spared the town. In 1903 Elmer Jahraus arrived from Santa Ana in and soon after opened a cigar factory. In 1913 he opened Laguna Lumber which allowed for an acceleration in Laguna Beach’s growth, albeit at a measured pace, and one oriented toward tourists on stage coaches rather than steam trains.


Laguna Beach Art Association c. 1925
Laguna Beach Art Association c. 1925 (image credit: Laguna Art Museum)

Artists were drawn by the beautiful and dramatic landscapes. The first painting done in Laguna Beach was done so in 1878. Some of the earliest painters to come to Laguna Beach included plein air masters Anna Hills, Frank Cuprien (aka the “Dean of Laguna Artists”), Gardner Symonds, William Alexander Griffith, William Daniell, and William Wendt (aka the “Dean of Southern California landscape painters”). In 1913, a group led by Missouri-born muralist Edgar A. Payne established an artist commune. Their first public exhibition, held in 1918, attracted thousands of attendees. Bolstered by this success, Payne later founded the Laguna Beach Art Association.

Wendt later co-founded the California Art Club, and served as its president for six years. In 1961, theLaguna Beach School of Art (now known as the Laguna Beach College of Art + Design) was established.


Neal of the Navy The Lash The Hope Diamond Mystery
The Queen of Sheba The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe Captain Jaunary

The beautiful scenery of Laguna Beach attracted not just vacationers and artists but filmmakers, who shot a handful of silent films in the area including Neal of the Navy (1915), The Lash (1916), The Mystery Ship(1917), The Hope Diamond Mystery (1921), The Queen of Sheba (1921), The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1922), and Captain January (1924).


The Last Supper 1936
Recreation of The Last Supper in 1936

The Pageant of the Masters began as an event called Kitshi Manido in 1921. The second Kitshi took place in 1927. The Spirit of the Masters was added to the Festival of Arts in 1933. In 1936 it was renamed Pageant of the Masters. The pageants centered around living artists staging recreations of famous artworks. It still takes place today.

Aliso Beach 1923
Aliso Beach 1923 (image credit: Light Headed and the Howard Wilson Collection)

Also in the 1920s, dozens of cabins were built in Crystal Cove Park for the growing number of tourists whilst others opted to sleep in tents on Aliso Beach. The city of Laguna Beach incorporated in 1927.

Fire Station No 1
Fire Station One — Orange County’s oldest operating fire station (since 1931)


By the 1930s Laguna Beach was one of the most popular destinations for Hollywood movie stars. Many silent era and Classic Hollywood era stars made Laguna Beach their home (or one of them), includingBette Davis, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Judy Garland, Mary Pickford, Mickey Rooney, Rudolph Valentino, and Victor Mature among others. In James Cain‘s 1941 novel Mildred Pierce, the heroine opens her third restaurant there. Alongside the Hollywood crowd, a Laguna Beach’s gay scene began to emerge with several gay bars operating by toward the end of the 1930s. Gay actor Rock Hudson was first a staple of the Laguna Beach social scene and ultimately bought a home there.


Eiler Larsen Guy Angelo Wilson's sculpture of Eiler Larson Sculpture of Eiler Larson

The real Larsen, Hello-o-o-o-o-o-o- How Ar-r-re You? (image credit: Joe Orman) and Guy Angelo Wilson’s sculpture (image credit: Chris Jepsen of OC History Roundup)


Eiler Larsen, aka the Laguna Beach Greeter, was a Dane who settled in Laguna Beach in 1942 after first visiting the Pageant of the Masters in 1938. It seems that then as now, most motorists were miserable and Larsen made it his habit to wave to them and yell “Hello!” “Too many people driving along the highway are frowning and look unhappy. By waving, I make them smile and thousands of people have a happier day before them,” he explained. In 1963,  “The Greeter” was released on OBO records, composed by Paul Blaine Henrie, sung by Rochelle Battat and featuring Larsen. In 1964, the cultural icon was proclaimedLaguna’s Official Greeter by the mayor. He died at age 84 in 1975. During his life he was depicted in paintings, postcards,  and sculptures. One such sculpture stands in front of The Old Pottery Place and another in front of Greeter’s Corner Restaurant.

John Griggs with Rosemary and Timothy LearyLaguna Beach Happening Flyer Main stage of Laguna Beach
Griggs and the Learys         Flyer and stage at the Laguna Beach Christmas Happening

Loved by and friendly to actors, artists, gays and others; Laguna Beach was firmly established as the epicenter of Orange County Bohemianism by the rise of the counterculture in the 1960s. In 1965, the celebrated Sawdust Art Festival was inaugurated when a group of artists “splintered” from the Festival of Arts. In 1967 a group of artists splintered from them and started the Art-A-Fair Festival.
In 1967, John Griggs led the Brotherhood of Eternal Love relocated there and opened their head shop,Mystic Arts World. In 1968, Timothy Leary was busted for possession in Laguna Beach. The Hare Krishnas arrived the same year (although they didn’t open their temple until 1980). In 1970, Laguna Beach hosted the Laguna Beach Christmas Happening.


Seal Rock
Seal Rock

Hippies were largely responsible for some of Laguna Beach’s passion for preserving and protecting the both Laguna Beach’s environment and historic homes. The Pacific Marine Mammal Center was established in 1971 to protect, rescue and rehabilitate marine mammals. Thanks to the efforts of Laguna Beach preservationists there are still Craftsman bungalows from the early 20th Century and large undeveloped wilderness areas. The first Laguna Beach Historic Survey was undertaken in 1980 to determine historic significance of the town’s remaining pre-1940 buildings. Old home and architecture fans should consider taking the Village Laguna Charm House Tour.


Art-A-Fair 1967 Sawdust Festival 1968

Art-A-Fair Festival (1967) and the Sawdust Festival (1968) (image source: OCInSite)

With art one of Laguna Beach’s main draws, it should come as no surprise that it’s become a big commodity. Laguna Beach still hosts several art events including the aforementioned the Pageant of the Masters, the Sawdust Art Festival, and Festival of Arts, as well as the Art-A-Fair (founded in 1967), Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational, the First Thursdays Art Walk, Laguna Craft Guild Art Show, Open Artists’ Studio, and likely others — please let me know. There’s also the Laguna Art Museum. Laguna Beach is also home to the Southern California Artist Association, Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, and Laguna ART Group.

By no means do I want to suggest that I’m terribly knowledgeable about Laguna Beach’s huge art scene but it seems to be dominated by two major strains — the plein air landscapes with which it made its name, and a kitschy strain of of pop surrealism. I have no desire to belittle people for their tastes but I’ve got to say that it’s not my thing. I’ve seen melting harlequins, ex-presidents playing cards, and rainbow striped elephants but my snickering at the photorealistic depiction of Disney‘s Ariel in a romantic embrace with a Humpback whale led to my ejection from the Wyland Gallery. I’m sure non-believers like me don’t bother the Laguna Beach art establishment too much though. If the prices these pieces command and the proudly-displayed photos of artists with guys like Sting and Dave Matthews suggest anything, it’s that these painters are crying all the way to the (to paraphrase Liberace).

This here is my attempt to list all of the current Laguna Beach galleries and shops: Amy Rose Art, Anthropos Gallery, Art Affair, Art Classes & Artist Bobbi Boyd, Art for the Soul, Artist Eye Laguna Gallery, Auster Ken, Aviation Arts Gallery, Avran Art+Design, Bluebird Gallery, Casa Caroni, CES Contemporary, Cheryl Ekstrom Studio, Cheyne Walls Fine Art Photography, Christy Larry Studio Gallery, Clark Little Gallery, Coastal Eddy a Gallery,

Contemporary Chinese Fine Art, Corbett Colleen, Cove Gallery, Davy Liu Studio Gallery, De Franco Studio, DeBilzan Gallery, Deborah Carman Gallery, Delgado Water Colors, Demossa Gallery, DeRu’s Fine Art, Diana Ferrone Gallery, Exclusive Collections Gallery, Faux Paw Productions, Fil Mottola Gallery, Fine Art Laguna Beach, Fingerhut Gallery of Laguna Beach, Gallery 1951, Gallery McCollum, Gallery One of Laguna, The George Gallery, H Gallery,

Handmade Hearts Gallery & Art Glass Studio, Hidden Dream Fine Art, How Original, J Kamin Fine Arts, JoAnne Artman Gallery, Joseph Wise Fine Art Gallery, Katie Clark Fine Art, Kuhnert’s Art Gallery, Kush Fine Art, Laguna Fine Art, Laguna Gallery of Contemporary Art, Laguna North Gallery,Las Laguna Art GalleryLen Woods Indian TerritoryLu Martin Galleries, Maki Gallery, Mandarin Fine Art Gallery, Marion Meyer Contemporary Art, Martin Roberts Gallery, McKibben Studios,

Melange, Messenger of the Sun, Mian’s Art Gallery, Miranda Galleries, Pacific Edge Gallery, Pacific Gallery, Peter Blake Gallery, Pure Color Mike Kelly Photography, Quorum Art Gallery, Redfern Gallery, Richard MacDonald Galleries, Roark Studio Gallery, Rohrer Fine Art, Ruth Mayer Gallery, Salt Fine Art Gallery, Sandstone Gallery, Seven-Degrees, The Signature Gallery, Simard Bilodeau GalerieSitu Art Gallery, Skylab Modern Art,

Sokolov Vladimir Studio & Gallery, Studio 7 Gallery, Studio Gallery Laguna, Sue Greenwood Fine Art, Surf Gallery, Swenson Fine Art, Townley Gallery, Tracey Moscaritolo Studio Gallery, 225 Forest, Verna Glancy Fine Art, Village Gallery, The Vintage Poster, Viszolay Walter, Wassmann Cliff Fine Arts, The Watercolor Gallery, William Merrill Gallery, Wyland Galleries, and Xanadu Collections.

More interesting to me are the many examples of public art located throughout the community. There are so many statues and installations that one could spend a whole day just checking them out. Here’s a link to a map that covers the more than 65 pieces and provides information about their creators.


Laguna Concert Band performing a suite of John Williams‘s music from Harry Potter

I’m sure that there are musicians born in and bands formed in Laguna Beach but I haven’t been able to locate many. The Laguna Beach Chamber Music Society was founded in 1959 by cellist and Russian émigréNicolas “Kolia” Levienne. They perform an annual chamber music festival in the winter. I’m not sure when the Laguna Concert Band was founded but it includes several smaller units too: The Bolling League, Brass Ensemble, Third Street Strutters, Laguna Flutes, SwingSet and Laguna Swing Society. Laguna Beach’s gay men’s chorus, Men Alive, includes over 130 singers and was founded in 2001 by Richard Cook.

Men Alive performing Morten Lauridsen‘s “O Magnum Mysterium”

Local music events include Bluegrass & BBQ, Fête de la MusiqueJazz Wednesdays, Laguna Beach Live!, Laguna Beach Music Festival, Live! at the Museum, and Live! Music 4 Kids. And music shoppers will find no better store than Sound Spectrum, which opened in 1967 and still sells vinyl, video, and other music paraphernalia.


View from Crescent Bay Park
View from Crescent Bay Point Park

If I haven’t made it abundantly clear, Laguna Beach is one of the most naturally beautiful areas in Orange County and its numerous parks are often both lovely themselves and afford stunning views — as well as places to play baseball, basketball, American football, real football, volleyball or do some grilling. On the day of our visit we enjoyed the amazing view from Crescent Bay Point Park.

Lifeguard Tower
Iconic Lifeguard Tower (originally part of a gas station) moved to Main Beach Park in the 1920s

Over in Main Beach Park the tables have chess tables embedded in them. Crystal Cove State Park includes 46 historic cabins, a visitors’ center, more than five kilometers of beach, and 2,400 acres of wilderness.

Aliso and Woods Canyon
Aliso and Woods Canyon

Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park has 30 miles of trails spread over 3,900 acres of wilderness. Biggest of all, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park offers 7,000 acres of wilderness.

Crescent Bay Point Park

Other parks include Aliso Beach County Park, Alta Laguna Park, Bluebird Park, Boat Canyon Park, Heisler Park, Jahraus Park, Laguna Beach Dog Park, Lang Park, Moulton Meadows Park, Nita Carman Park, Ruby Street Park, Swanson Park, Top of the World Park, Treasure Island Park, Victoria Beach, and Village Green Park. Not exactly a park but worth a mention is South Laguna Community Garden. And shout outs to the Laguna Canyon Foundation.


For my money, the beaches in Laguna Beach are the best in Orange County. Visiting Laguna Beach often involves passing through the large green belt that practically surrounds it but one can’t ignore the blue belt!The Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve was dedicated in 2012 on every Earth Day the city hostsKelpfest. Out on the water there are divers, snorklers, body boarders, paddle boarders, skim boarders, kayakers, swimmers, and surfers. Laguna Beach hosts the Spring Fever Surfabout as well as theVictoria Skimboards World Championship. The marine environment is preserved and protected by the non-profit Laguna Ocean Foundation.

In the past I’ve swum at Main Beach (Laguna Beach). On the day of our visit we hit Crescent Bay Beachfor about three hours. Aside from anemones, crabs, small gray fish, gulls, pelicans, and mussels, I didn’t see a lot of wildlife although some kids on the shore yelled that there were rays swimming near me. And once at night I walked along the beach and accidentally annoyed a massive seal or sea lion bull that I thought was a rock.

Crescent Bay Beach
Crescent Bay Beach

Other beaches include Agate Beah, Aliso Beach, Anita Street Beach, Bluebird Canyon Beach, Boat Canyon Cove, Brooks Street Beach, Camel Point Beach, Cleo Street Beach, Cress Street Beach, Diver’s Cove, Moss Street Beach, Mountain Road Beach, Oak Street Beach, Pearl Street Beach, Picnic Beach, Rockpile Beach, Shaw’s Cove, Sleepy Hollow Beach, St. Ann’s Beach, Table Rock Beach, Thalia Street Beach, Thousand Steps Beach, Treasure Island Park Beach, Victoria Beach, West Street Beach, and Woods Cove.


Taco Loco
Taco Loco

Food is also serious business in Laguna Beach, although the restaurant scene isn’t the most diverse, offering as it does mostly fancy New American, Mexican, and Italian food. Thankfully, though, there are very few global chains. I’ve eaten at a few Laguna Beach restaurants but they all run together in my mind except for Taco Loco, which is where a former roommate of mine was discovered on one of the many pilgrimages one of my Angeleno friends has undertaken to that destination.

Laguna Beach is home to the Laguna Culinary Arts. The town offers the Flavors of Laguna tours, Laguna Beach a la Carte – A Food & Wine Experience, and the Laguna Beach Farmers’ Market.

Local restaurants include Active Culture, Adolfo’s, Adonis Mediterranean Grill, Alessa Laguna, Andree’s Patisserie, Broadway by Amar Santana, Asada Laguna, Avila’s El Ranchito Mexican Restaurant, Beach House, Breakers by the Beach, Broadway by Amar Santana, Brussels Bistro, C’est La VieCafé AnastasiaCafé HeidelbergCafé Zoolu, Carmelita’s, Chapleau Restaurant, China Bistro 1, Chinese Combo, Chocolate Soldier, The Cliff Restaurant,

Coyote Grill, Deb’s Deli, The Deck on Laguna Beach, Dizz’s As Is, Dolce Gelato, Eva’s-A Caribbean Kitchen, 5′, Gallo’s Laguna Beach, Gauranga’s Vegetarian Buffet, Gecko Cookie Company, Gelato Paradiso, GG’s Café Bistro, Gina’s Alfresco, Gina’s Pizza & Pastaria, The Greeter’s Corner Restaurant, Hapi Sushi, Hawaiian Charcoal Broiler, House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer, Husky Boy Burgers, Johnny’s New York Pizza & Sandwiches, K’ya Bisto Bar,

The Koffee Klatch, La Rue du Chocolat, La Sirena Grill, Laguna Feast Authentic Mexican Cuisine, Laguna Subs, Laguna Thai By the Sea, Las Brisas Restaurant, Living Juice, Loft Restaurant,Lumberyard, Madison Square & Garden Café, Mama’s Bakery & Lebanese Café, Mandarin King, Mare Culinary Lounge, Maro Wood Grill, Medici Bistro, Mirepoix, Mosaic Bar & Grille, Mozambique Steakhouse, Natraj Cuisine of India, Neapolitan Pizzeria & Birreria,

Nick’s Laguna Beach, Nirvana Grille, O Fine Japanese Cuisine, Ocean Avenue, OceanView Bar & Grill, Olamendi’s, Orange Café, Orange Inn, Papa’s Tacos, Pappou’s Den, Penguin Café, Peony Chinese Cuisine, Pizza Lounge, Polina Salerno Italian Restaurant, ReMark’s, Ristorante Rumari, Rock’N Fish,Romeo Cucina, Royal Thai Cuisine, San Shi Go, Salerno Italian Restaurant, Saphire Laguna, Selanne Steak Tavern, Splashes, The Stand, Starfish,

Studio Restaurant, Sundried Tomato Café, Sushi Laguna, Tabu Grill, Taco Laguna, Taco Mesa, Taz Asian Fusion, Thai Bros, Thalia Beach Café, Three Four Five Restaurant, Three Seventy Common, Ti Amo Ristorante, El Torito Mexican Restaurant & Cantina, 230 Forst Avenue, 242 Café Fusion Sushi,Velvet Yogurt, Watermarc Restaurant, White House, Zeytoon, and Zinc Café & Market.


There are a few places to grab drinks (and often eats) in Laguna Beach including Bamboo Bar and Grill,Bounce, Hennessey’s Tavern, Marine Room Tavern, The Rooftop Lounge (which is perhaps more of a nightclub), The Saloon, The Sandpiper Lounge, Laguna Beach Wine Gallery, Laguna Wine Coffee & Specialty Foods and Serra’s Bar & Grill.


Laguna South Coast Theater 1940
South Coast Theatre in 1940 (image credit: OC Cinema)

Laguna Beach has been home to several movie theaters in the past including Bill Alford’s NickelodeonTheatre (fka The Movie Barn fka The Liberty Theater) which showed silent films in the 1950s and was later demolished. There was also the Lynn Theatre (built around 1915 and long since demolished), the Coast Highway Theatre (opened 1935 and since demolished), and the Ocean Avenue Theatre (later renamed theLaguna Theatre). Today the only remaining movie theater is the two-screen Laguna South Coast Theatrewhich opened in 1923 as the New Lynn Theatre and was dedicated by Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. It became the South Coast Theatre in 1937 and was divided in two after being acquired byEdwards Cinema in 1982. Around 2001 it was taken over by Regency Theatres. The Laguna Beach Film Society also hosts the Third Thursday Film Screening at the theater

In the post-silent classic era, several movies were filmed in part or in whole in Laguna Beach includingTanned Legs (1929), All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), A House Divided (1931), Doctor X (1932),Forbidden (1932), Captain Blood (1935), The Life of Emily Zola (1937), The Sea Hawk (1940), Now, Voyager (1942), Lassie Come Home (1943), Sentimental Journey (1946), The Long, Long Trailer(1953), A Star Is Born (1954), The Sand Castle (1961), Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962), Locked In!(1964), and Stop the Wave I Want to Get Off (1965).

More recent Laguna Beach-filmed movies include Adventures into Digital Comics (2006), Anokha (2004),Art Car: The Movie (2012), Beaches (1988), Black Star Canyon (2006), Boxboarders! (2007), Campus Girls of OC (2008), Cat Chaser (1989), Collecting Dust (2011), The Conrad Boys (2006), Crash Artist: Beyond the Red Carpet (2008), Criminal Love (2010), Dark Horizon (2009), Dating Games People Play(2005), A Few Good Men (1992), Gallagher: Stuck in the Sixties (1983), Gettin’ It (2006), Hide (2011),Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean (2012), Kenjutsu: The Art of the Samurai (2005),Leestemaker: Portrait of an Artist (2003), Mamma Mia! (2008), The Mark 666 & the New World Order(2005), The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker (1971), Mirror Image (2012), Murder Inside of Me (2009),Naked Under Leather (2004), Orange Inn (2011), Ornaments (2008), Passionata (1992), Presence(2008), Pygmy Spy Music (2006), Rate It X (1986), Road to Flin Flon (2000), Savages (2012), and Voices of War – WWII (2007).

Life as a House (2001), whilst set in Laguna Beach but filmed in Los Angeles County.


Laguna Beach the Real Orange County

After Fox‘s hit TV series The OC aroused interest in Orange County (despite being filmed mostly in Los Angeles), MTV jumped on the short-lived bandwagon with a reality show, Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County (2004). Other series (none of which I’ve heard of) that have been filmed in part or in whole in Laguna Beach include Laguna Cafe (2000), MXG Beach Countdown (2000), High Chaparall (2003), Bikini Destinations (2003), The Heartbreak Cafe (1997), Generation 01 (1997), Action Figures (2004), andInspector America (2011).


Forest Avenue
Forest Avenue

If you like live theater there’s Laguna Beach Artists’ Theater, the Laguna Playhouse, and No Square Theater. Dance fans can enjoy the Laguna Dance Festival. Bookworms are served by a public library, the Dennis and Leslie Power Library (at Laguna College of Art and Design), Laguna Beach Books, and Barnaby Rudge Booksellers (which also sells DVDs). Shop-aholics who like shady eucalyptus-lined lines will find few better matches than Forest Avenue. Golfers might want to check out The Aliso Creek Inn and Golf CourseGamers need to put Official Game Haven on their list. Lawn sports enthusiasts should check the schedule of the Laguna Beach Lawn Bowling Club.

Sewage Vent
Tiny hillside lighthouse? No, a Mediterranean Revival sewage vent from 1935

For further reading look for George Wesley Wilson‘s From the Ozarks to Aliso (1975) and Claire Marie Vogel’s Laguna Beach (2009), part of Arcadia Publishing’s wonderful Images of America series. If you’d like more Laguna Beach history, consider supporting or joining the Laguna Beach Historical Society by sending $15 per individual, $25 per household or $50 per business/organization to 278 Ocean Avenue, Laguna Beach CA 92651. Historic photos of Laguna Beach can be enjoyed by clicking here.

To vote for any communities you’d like to see covered in California Fool’s Gold, name them in the comments. If you’d like a bit of inspiration, there are primers for:

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRWWhich Way, LA?, at Emerson College, and the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubiand Twitter.
Art prints of Brightwell’s maps are available from Saatchi Art and 1650 Gallery. Other merchandise is available on Tee Public.
Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

4 thoughts on “California Fool’s Gold — Exploring Laguna Beach

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s